Absence Makes Me Wordier!

It has been a long time.  A lifetime, practically.  (My Baby’s lifetime, boom boom!  This is a joke I have been making a lot. I amuse at least myself.)

On the sewing front, I have done very little.  Mostly because I had very little time, and also very little motivation, but I think my lack of motivation was due to my lack of time.  It is all very circular.  I desperately want to get back to sewing, and I have so many ideas (so many!) but time remains an issue.

On the blogging front, well, yeah.  Things were always winding down on the blogging front.  Social media has changed the landscape, too.  Instagram felt like the perfect place for sewing stuff, but it is annoying for a variety of reasons (mostly to do with being taken over by Facebook), and I wonder if we will go back to our blogs as a result? Possibly, but maybe not.

But lo! Some time last year I was struggling with not-sewing and as a result (the truth is I’m still struggling with not-sewing), started re-arranging furniture.  Look, it makes sense, okay? But not only did I need space – that was not the kitchen table – to sew, I also needed motivation. So I bought a ticket to the Sew Melbourne Garden Party, and it was aaaaages away and I figured I’d manage to make something for myself by then.  You can laugh; I’m laughing as I type.  Even before Baby, it could take me FOREVER to finish something.

Exhibit A:
Prior to falling pregnant, I started making the Deer and Doe Bruyere.  I even blogged about it.  My Bruyere muslin is *still* in the state you see in that blog post.  Partially because even then, the waist was probably going to be too tight, so I faffed and have not advanced any further.  Maybe I’ll return to it; maybe I should now be looking at making the next size up in any event!

I do need new clothes.  All kinds of new clothes.  Outwardly, my body has not changed significantly post Baby (who is insisting that I cease to refer to her as Baby but this is MY blog, Baby, and you cannot read yet, so take that!) but there have been huge psychological shifts (er, I’m responsible for an entire human being now) and discomforts in my current clothes, and I still have lots of wardrobe gaps because, I don’t know, life? laziness?

I have actually been sewing some bits and bobs here and there.  Mostly harem pants for Baby because they are so fun, and I have been upcycling things that don’t fit me anymore into things for Baby.  Harem pants are fun because you get to this point where they just look ridiculous, then you put in the waist elastic and – ta dah! – cute baby-butt pants.

For the Garden Party, I decided on the fabric – bought when Baby was an actual baby with the intention of making a breastfeeding friendly summer dress.  LOL. And then I spent forever dithering about patterns.  I had two in mind in particular: Megan Nielsen’s Darling Ranges (a pattern I bought after Baby’s birth with the intention of making many breastfeeding friendly dresses. All the LOLZ) and Deer and Doe’s Reglisse (a pattern I’ve had for ages but just never got around to making).  I put the pictures side-by-side and left them on my phone, and looked at them randomly as I tried to decide.

Darling Ranges is definitely more me, and I’ve liked the pattern ever since it was released, but my sewing nemesis: buttons! (Well, many things are my sewing nemesis…)  Reglisse sits squarely within ‘party dress’ territory for me.  But I like lots about it (hello, elastic waist and bias cut bodice).  Darling Ranges has pockets; Reglisse does not.  Darling Ranges has a straight skirt; Reglisse’s is a 3/4 circle skirt – dangerous territory for me.

I finally decided I would sew Darling Ranges, printed the pattern, cut out my size and then – Baby got hold of my phone, found the picture and said, unprompted, “I hate this. I love this.  Mummy make this.”  She hated Darling Ranges and liked Reglisse.

Look, maybe it’s not the most sensible thing to have your 2 year old direct your sewing plans, but that threw me.  I dithered some more.

And then the weekend before Sew Garden Party had arrived and I had not even started! I eventually decided to make Reglisse, helped along by the fact that I had traced my size so long ago that I didn’t remember doing it and discovered that when I traced my size I had also modified the skirt to include slash pockets.  Thanks, past me.  You’re a champ!  Thanks to the elastic waist, I decided it didn’t matter that I had traced a size 38 without grading out the waist.  I figured I’d just have a less gathered waist than many.

Serendipitously, I had the weekend before Sew Garden Party all to myself.  So, on Friday night, I cut out the pieces.  I spent all of Saturday sewing it up.  Slowly, with lots of breaks to watch random youtube videos completely unrelated to sewing.  It’s just a thing I do when my partner is not at home.  I had to dredge up from my memory how on earth to sew darts.  I followed the sewing instructions, but not the order, so I had to keep reading the entirety of the instructions to develop a process that works for me, which I used to be pretty good at doing after a quick read of sewing instructions but that muscle memory needs some work.  By the end of Saturday, I had the bodice pieced, the skirt pieced and the waistband done.  All that was left was to put them together.

I went for a long walk on Sunday, and on Sunday night put the whole thing together, packed up my kitchen table so it looked like a table again and let the dress hang in my sewing wardrobe to allow the hem to drop.  That and I did not have anywhere near enough of the right coloured bias tape to do the hem.  The Saturday before the garden party, I dashed off to Spotlight to purchase some bias binding during Her nap and that night, attempted to true the hem and hem the dress.  My truing didn’t work.  I put my dress on and asked my partner how terrible he thought the hem looked (yes, I skewed the result by asking a loaded question) and he tried to be kind and honest by saying it was definitely uneven but looked okay.  I didn’t take a photo.  I went to bed a bit miserable about it, and woke the following morning despondent.  So despondent, I announced that I didn’t feel like going to the garden party anymore.

No one who doesn’t sew would notice; every one who does sew, would.  They were whom I had made the dress for (and myself of course.) And I was sad that my first full not-t-shirt garment in the life of my Baby was not resoundingly successful.  There’s lots tied up in how I felt that morning, having much to do with how I feel about myself now that Baby is in my life, and it took my partner’s unfazed, “Are you going to fix it or wear it?” that had me madly working out how to fix it in the time I had left.

I unpicked the bias bound hem and my partner helped me true it.  My Baby kept asking us what we were doing and then wanted me to true a hem for her (she wasn’t actually wearing any clothes at the time but details, details).  Then Partner and Baby departed the house and I used the overlocker to trim the hem and tried to decide whether to use bias binding or something else for the hem.  I’d cut off quite a lot of hem by now and I like my skirts at knee length.  At this time, it was 11 and the garden party started at 12 and I needed to leave the house! Instead of the bias binding, I decided to do a dodgy narrow hem.  No pinning, just eyeballing.  It wasn’t perfect but it was much, much better.  About 15 minutes later, I was out the door!

The garden party was, of course, lovely.  I arrived an hour late, but I walked in at the same time as Li-ann (@happylat), so at least we both arrived late together! Everyone looked fabulous, it was so lovely to see and talk to everyone again, and I stayed pretty much until the end, gasbagging.  At some point, I started trying to make my way around to all the faces I didn’t know or knew only through Instagram but not in person but I think I got waylaid by Finska, cheese or strawberries and suddenly, people were slowly departing and I was saying bye to people I had not even said hi to!

Oh well, next year!

I Made My Own Baby Wearing Wrap! Read on to find out how I did it …

Do you know what such a thing is? Probably not if you don’t have / are about to have / know someone who has a Baby.

I cannot promise that this blog is not going to become all ‘baby, baby, baby’, because apparently the little things are all consuming, so I might fail at thinking about anything else at all for a while, which means I’m unlikely to write about anything else. Of course, it’s entirely possible that I’ll just disappear from the blog too.  Surprise!

Anyway, baby wraps are, in effect, just one long piece of fabric.  There are lots and lots of tutorials about how to make one, entitled click-baity things like, ‘How to make a Baby wrap without sewing!’; ‘How to make a baby wrap for $5!’ etc. (I thought I’d give a click bait title a try. Not sure I won.)

Basically, the tutorials are this:

  1. You need a rectangular piece of knit/jersey fabric that is approximately 5 yard/metres long by about 50cm wide.
  2. You can hem or serge the edge if you want, but you don’t need to because knit doesn’t fray, so really that’s it. (Although there are a few tutorials telling you that you do have to hem it in case it frays, and I want to wade in, waving my arms around, but I won’t.)

None of the tutorials told me things what I, as someone who sews and who (sort of) understands fabric properties, needed/wanted to know:

  1. What kind of fabric?
  2. How much stretch?
  3. Which way does the grain/stretch run?
  4. Is it pieced? How did you manage to buy 5 yards/metres of fabric for that little money?!

The last is most significant if you are in Australia.  There is simply no way you will find that much fabric – of any description – for small pickings.  Wraps retail here for around $80 – $150 or thereabouts, depending on the fabric. This is a perfectly acceptable amount of money for the fabric content part of the wrap, without taking into account the labour involved (fairly minimal, admittedly) in the making of the wrap.  A commercial wrap will be hemmed and have a tag/logo.

I did a bit of online shopping research, but nothing really told me which way the grain ran, or the amount of stretch.  Plenty of wraps were made from bamboo knit, which makes sense if you’re selling to an Australian audience (cool and breatheable), as well as from cotton knits with varying degrees of Lycra/Spandex content.  This meant that the stretch was probably pretty variable, but what was optimal?

I asked baby wearing friends what they liked about wraps, which didn’t actually help my research at all (I already intended to carry my baby in some sort of device; I should say I’d ruled out slings, because I did not like the idea of the metal rings. Slings tend to be made from wovens, and would have been great for summer but no, I just don’t like the idea of them.)

One of my awesome friends has moved quite a bit, and in that time had multiple children.  She has used different wraps, and so was someone who could at least say which she liked more and why.  Her favourite was the Moby Wrap, because it had the least stretch. I decided I would mimic the Moby Wrap.

The main complaint about Moby Wraps from the online community seemed to be how complicated they were to wear.  I looked up instructions.  It doesn’t look impossibly complicated.  Also, I got origami skillz, yo. Also also, I used to be a rock climber; I can do complicated things with rope type other things (I just cannot call them by their proper names). I’ll be okay.

My next step of research was to get my hands on a Moby Wrap, because I still did not know how much stretch.  We are trying, as much as possible, to not get sucked into the excessive consumerism surrounding all things baby (you can buy a pram for more than the cost of our touring bikes! Insane.) Gumtree had a bunch (yay! But also, plenty of people said that theirs was ‘rarely used’); I picked one that to get to me would be less than half price new.

When it arrived, it was in excellent condition. I didn’t know whether I *needed* more than one wrap (I think Partner and I can trade wraps when we trade carrying baby?) but thought maybe I would if I chucked one in the wash? Apparently babies are also gross.

From the foregoing, this is what I decided were the answers to my questions above:

  1. Fabric: can be any knit or stretch woven, I reckon.  Any at all.  Your main consideration should be breathability, because it’s probably a good idea to not suffocate your baby. I’ve been to antenatal classes and that’s what they said.
  2. Stretch: A little but not too much.  I suggest less than 20%, and only 2-way.
  3. Grain/Stretch line: You want the stretch to run parallel to the long edge of your rectangle, and perpendicular to the short edge.
  4. Is it pieced? No. No it’s not. But can it be? I don’t see why not.  The internet says not to, because you don’t want any weight bearing seams.

Well, tish tosh to that.

I had an approximately 3 metre-ish long piece of technical fabric, that was wicking, breathable and made from a bamboo/polyester mix (57.37% White Bamboo Charcoal (Tax bamboo), 42.63% Wicking Polyester) that I had obtained from Stretchtex.  I had made a Megan Nielsen maternity tee from it for Japan, and though its properties were good, I did not like the colour on me (too see through!) I was going to have no other purpose for it, and could not see me offloading it to anyone. I thought it would be perfect for a wrap, with the right amount of ‘not too much’ stretch.

3 metres was too little for a wrap, even for someone my size. I wrapped it around me fine, but had no fabric left with which to tie it up.  Your girth is relevant; your height is not.

I added a metre of extra fabric to each end of the 3 metres, by firstly overlocking with wrong sides together.  I then turned that into a French seam, and then faux flat-felled the seam. If that’s not a seam that can hold the weight of a baby, I will simply have to develop awesome baby catching reflexes.

Mock Moby Wrap

My baby holding faux flat felled French seam.

Then I overlocked all the edges, using (for the first time ever!) woolly nylon for my two looper threads.  I increased the width of the overlock stitch to its widest, and decreased the length of the stitch to the second narrowest. Woolly nylon is a revelation!

Mock Moby Wrap

Boringest photo in the universe.

Now I have two serviceable baby wraps. All I need is the baby. I’m making that, too.

Sewing Room Shuffle Finale!

It’s done! I’ve shuffled to my heart’s content and will shuffle no more.  For the time being anyway…

I need to sew some clothes that will see me through the final trimester, and which are compatible with the approaching hotter weather, and which I might wear once baby departs her abode in my belly. And I want to sew stuff for baby too (mostly functional things like nappies, burp cloths and face & butt wipes; she’s going to be a summer baby who is likely to be naked most of the time).  I’m sure I’ll do a bit of refining as I sew, based on how I use the space.

I’m pretty pleased with myself that I mostly stuck to The Plan, and managed to do a cull of unnecessary things, too. As it panned out, I have less fabric than I thought, and my patterns take up less space than I expected. Winning at smug.

As presaged, I re-organised my binding and trim from The Hanger of Trims into an old postage box, which I prettified by covering in fabric. This resulted in my trims taking up much less space, and being consolidated with my Elastics & Reflectives.

Box of Trims!

Box of Trims!

I made bobbin shaped cards out of my and Partner’s old business cards, and spent some happy hours wrapping binding around each card. However I fairly quickly got bored of labelling my cards.

Here is the bottom part of my half of The Study’s wardrobe:
SSS Finale 2

  • Bottom Row
    • Left: overlocker thread and wooly nylon;
    • Right: untraced patterns or PDFs not yet stuck together, interfacing, spare folders
  • Middle Row
    • Left: Knit scraps; box of hardware bits & bobs; box of sewing machine feet & needles; box of buttons hiding at the back;
    • Right: Patterns – bottoms (creamy yellow) & dresses (grey)
  • Top Row
    • Left: box of minky & PUL (new acquisition for baby sewing!); cutting & tracing equipment – a very heavy little box due to the washers and nuts & bolts I use as pattern weights!;
    • Right: Patterns – tops (green), menswear (blue – so few you cannot even see the folders!) , bags, babies & household miscellany (orange).

Here is the top part of my half of The Study’s wardrobe:

      • Top Row
        • Left: Woven scraps and box of pressing equipment (ham, sausage, linen cloths plus my duster);
        • Right: stationery and zips (not happy with this storage; want a different solution)
      • On top of the cube unit:
        • Box of binding and trims; box of cables; the iron and the sewing essentials will live here when they’re not on my sewing desk (cup with thread snip, chalk pens, unpicker; pins tin and little thread rubbish bin);
      • On the wall: thread rack and just in sight to the right if you look carefully, my measuring tapes.
      • To the left is my rubbish scrap bag and a bin containing tracing paper, butcher paper, oil cloth and heavy interfacing.

Here is my fabric:

The left cubes are wovens; middle & right cubes are knits except for top right which is my bonus cube, it contains 'muslin fabric' (old sheets, actually) and other specialty things, like bike shorts chamois.

Left column: wovens

Middle column: knits

Right column

  • Top: bonus cube! Contains ‘muslin fabric’ (old sheets, actually), specialty fabrics and a miscellany of specialist notions (eg that bike short chamois I bought that time I was going to make me bike shorts but then realised my current two are doing me just fine.)
  • Bottom: more knits!

I made door snakes / draught excluders for our last house, where the gaps under the door let in so much cold air, it was like we lived in a wind tunnel.  The doors in this house appear to have been cut to the right size for the door frame (imagine that), and I’ve just kept the snakes. The serve no purpose.

And now we can step back and see it all, with my machines:

(Sorry for the saturation & over exposure; it was a beautiful day outside, which made photography difficult!)

(Sorry for the saturation & over exposure; it was a beautiful day outside, which made photography difficult!)

The box underneath my sewing desk contains all my WIPs. It is packed full! (I’m a multiple projects on the go person … or easily distracted by the next shiny thing). Having my projects in a box means I can easily tidy by tossing current project on top and shut the lid. Most of my projects are in ziplock bags inside the box, so they’re not getting all muddled up! On top of the box are magazines & books loaned to my by the lovely Helen.

And, yes, I am guilty of doing that thing where cables are not visible in the photo. This is because this is how I want my sewing area to look, when it is at rest. One day I will sew covers for my machines!

The ironing board gets set up each time I sew, just in the middle of the room somewhere, and ideally is put back on the little bit of wall between my desk and the wardrobe, but I moved it out to take photos.

The right most desk is His Desk, and therefore Not My Problem.

And now that I’ve blogged, I think it’s time to sew! Well, maybe after a quick lie down.